Historic women’s basketball season ends in disappointing playoff defeat

(Matthew Emmanuel/ The Inquirer)

Evan Wesley

On Friday, March 1st, the DVC women’s basketball team was unable to overcome the stout defense of Merced College in the second round of the CCCAA Northern Regional Playoffs. Though the Vikings’ effort was valiant, they fell victim to the visiting Merced Devils in a disappointing 48-39 loss.

From the opening tip-off, the Vikings were unable to establish an offensive rhythm, taking them a full six minutes to score their first basket. To add to the Vikings’ troubles, Merced pulled down two rebounds per every Viking rebound, winning the battle on the glass 50 to 24.

Entering the game, DVC hoped to ride the hot hand of the Big 8 Conference MVP, First Team All-State and league-leading scorer: Annelise Ito. However, the Devils were determined not to let this happen on their watch. With swarming double teams and effectively executed defensive traps, Merced held DVC’s star Ito scoreless in the biggest game of the year.

“It was the first game all year she scored zero points,” said DVC coach Ramaundo Vaughn on Ito. “She’s been playing with a stress fracture for a little time now, but she still fought hard.”

With the Devils directing most of their defensive game plan to stop Ito, it was evident in the first half that other Vikings players must step up and make significant contributions to their offense. While the Vikings were not lacking in effort, they unfortunately fell short in their offensive efforts as they went into halftime trailing 14-23.

“Give Merced credit. They came out and played the game the way they wanted to play, which is a low-scoring kind of event,” said Vaughn. “Even still, we got the shots we wanted, got to the foul line, and missed shots and couldn’t hit free throws.”

Coming out of halftime, All Big 8 Conference guards Adrianna Joaquin and Elena Ala fronted an aggressive full court pressure defense, wreaking havoc and creating multiple turnovers. Even when the Devils were able to break the pressure, they often ran into a brick wall, that wall being sophomore TyJae Chenevert. Chenevert began the half with a handful of blocks and forced Merced into many ill-advised shots. With just nine minutes to go, DVC reduced the Merced lead to 30-28.

Unfortunate for Viking fans, the momentum shifted dramatically as Merced went on a 14-3 run to extend their lead to 44-31 with just three minutes left in the contest. The Vikings fought hard to close the gap, but ultimately saw their championship hopes crumble as Merced earned a tough victory in a physical and low-scoring contest.

“Our defense played hard. When you hold an opponent to 46 points, that’s not a bad night,” said Vaughn. “We averaged 64 to 65 points a game and we just couldn’t score at all tonight. It’s disappointing and has left a bitter taste in all of our mouths.”

The Vikings’ playoff loss came on the heels of a record-setting regular season in which they posted the highest winning percentage that the women’s program has ever seen. With all but one player returning to the squad next year, there is reason to be greatly optimistic.

“The good news is that they’ll pretty much all be back. We have some great recruits coming in,” said Vaughn. “It hurts now. Coming this far and coming up short will be motivation to work, motivation to get better. We’ll be back. It’s only gonna get better.”

Watching this young record-setting group evolve into an established and proven team will truly be a pleasant sight to see for the DVC community and all basketball fans. The Inquirer wishes sophomore TyJae Chenevert the very best as she moves on from the DVC program.

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